This post was originally published on andrewphelps.com, Jan. 12, 2011.
Every time there’s a snowstorm, WBUR asks ours readers/listeners to submit photos on Flickr — and then we grumble when hardly anyone participates. I think I finally figured out what we’ve been doing wrong.
Flickr is the wrong place for this kind of engagement. Most people don’t carry around cameras while going about their daily lives. And even those who do might not take the time to download, edit, and then upload to Flickr till several hours later.
But most people do carry phones with cameras. So this morning I looked out my window, snapped a photo on my iPhone, shared it on Twitter, and created the hash tag #ViewFromMyWindow. Then I asked people to do the same, using the hash tag. Dead simple. Just point, shoot, tweet. Early on, I retweeted anyone who participated to create a sense of momentum.
It exploded. By noon, #ViewFromMyWindow had become a trending topic (in Boston), and it was Twitter’s top trending topic for photo tweets (worldwide). I used CoverItLive to create a live stream (actually, a “ticker”) that automatically pulled in all these tweets and photos. The software automatically converts ugly image URLs (http://twitpic.com/BlahBlah) into photos. This created a sense of immediacy and scale, a fun and easy way to get a look at backyards across the state.
While most photos were ordinary, some were simply beautiful, others touching. Some carried little stories with them. We were able to relay these stories on Radio Boston. And we were able to use some of the best photos on the WBUR website. (That “payoff” is hugely rewarding for fans.)
So we finally figured out how to engage people in a snowstorm. It’s all about mobile.